Nepal (MNN) — As of May 6, deaths from Nepal’s 7.8 magnitude quake were over 7,000, with more than 14,000 injured.
The United Nations says the quake has affected 8 million people across 39 districts. 600,000 houses have been lost or damaged. At least two million people will need tents, water, food, and medicines over three months. What’s more, the urgency is mounting as many of the water sources have been contaminated by bodies and sewage.
Yet as aid supplies arrived, everything got backlogged at the airport. By Friday, the government finally removed import taxes on tarpaulins and tents that were being flown in, but they insisted that all goods still be checked. Further complicating relief efforts, the airport in Kathmandu had to be closed to heavy jets because they were damaging the runway.
There’s word of an exodus of people leaving the capital city. Many hundreds of thousands are trying to track the fate of their families back in villages affected by the tragedy. It means that the hardest hit areas, with the least amount of aid, will be overwhelmed in short order. Add to that the frequent downpours which have increased the risk of landslides and mudslides in areas destabilized by the earthquake’s tremors.
The task for the Non-Government Organizations seems insurmountable. Pete Howard of Food For the Hungry says the big question is, “Now, how do we help these people move into week 2, 3, and 4 and ensure they have food, get into some kind of shelter; how do we ensure that we have some kind of a sustainable water supply?”
Food For the Hungry is working in Nepal through an international partnership called the Integral Alliance. “We have many multiple partners on the ground,” says Howard, “and these partners are connected to local church networks and other organizations so just about every one of our local partners were impacted [by the quake].” Yet, they’re moving forward with relief because they’re ready, and very little else is making out their direction. “We have to be strategic in helping these communities develop a plan that will take them two months, six months, and even two years into the future, because it takes a long time to rebuild from an earthquake of this devastation.”
Tents are available, but “imagine living in tent-like conditions, or having to carry your water, kids not being able to be in school, for months on end.”
Howard says the other problem facing survivors is indirectly connected to the nature of the news cycle in North America. “Even as we start to forget about it, those children are still out of school and at-risk for other kinds of dangers. And those families are still in tents with rain conditions, monsoon conditions that come.”
Disasters like the Haiti quake, Japan’s triple disasters, Hurricane Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan left scars that take years to heal. Howard points out that the long-term plan is already in mind when the emergency relief package hits the ground. “As Food for the Hungry, we are motivated by our love for Christ and His call to care for all of those who are suffering. So in our response, we are meeting the very real physical needs, and we’re doing it in a way that points to Jesus.”
People often wonder, “Why are you sacrificing so much? Who are your partners and friends, and why are they sacrificing so much?” Howard says the answer comes from the heart. “These are churches and Christians in Nepal that are caring for their neighbors with the love of Christ. So as people join and support Food For the Hungry, they can know that they’re joining in supporting the local church which is being the presence of Christ in this current situation in Nepal.”